Hello and good day!
A fellow I recognized, but with whom I'd never spoken, came into our chocolate shop yesterday.He was a middle-aged man with a good head of recently cut thick brown hair and a full, well-trimmed, brown beard.
He had a badge hanging from his neck on a lanyard. In the picture on the badge, his hair was long and silky, flowing down to below his shoulders.
I walked over, looked at the badge, and then looked up at him.
"That's you?" I asked.
"Yes, that's me. Can you believe it? They took this picture 15 years ago and the administration says it's too expensive to replace. I'm stuck with it," he said.
I could see from the badge that he worked at the middle school around the corner.
"What do you do over at the middle school?" I asked.
"I'm a teacher."
"What do you teach?"
"I'm an English teacher."
"How is it working with eighth graders?"
"Just like you'd imagine. They're distracted and don't want to sit still and they're going through a crazy time. But they're great and I love my kids."
"Hey, do you need any help finding anything? Are you looking for anything in particular? Would you like a free hot chocolate?"
"I'll pass on the hot chocolate. But I'd like to know what's really fresh."
"We just made a batch of dark chocolate almond roca that came out really good."
I showed him to the almond roca. He thanked me and said he was going to look around a bit.
I stepped outside briefly for a breath of fresh air and left one of our team members tending to the store. It had been raining all morning and now there was a pause in the rainThe clouds opened up in small gaps and the sky's blue was peeking through the grey and white clouds.
The air was fresh and clean from the rain and there was mist floating that cooled my face as I stood and watched. The mountains on the horizon are covered in dark green pines and the neighborhood trees are turning red and gold.
Right before my eyes, a rainbow materialized from the mist. It seemed to start at one end of the parking lot and end at the other.
Andean folk music, pan flute and slow acoustic guitar, floated from the shop, and I watched as crows hovered down through the rainbow to peck at food scraps on the asphalt.
I inhaled a deep breath of clean autumn air and walked back in.
The English teacher was paying for his almond roca. He smiled at me, and I smiled at him.
"What's your favorite part of being a teacher?" I asked.
''There are so many things I like and there are a lot of things that drive me crazy too. But the most rewarding thing is when you know you really reached a kid in a way that will help them live a better life," he said.
"Does that happen a lot?"
"It only happens in a meaningful way a couple of times per year. Just last week I had a great experience with a boy from class."
He paid and stepped aside.
"What happened?" I asked.
"There is a kid in my class who is a known bully, and he has been disruptive since day one. I pulled him aside after class and I put my hand on his shoulder. He was looking down at the ground and I asked him to look up at me and he did. I told him that I didn't understand his behavior. I told him that I could see he was a good kid. I asked him why he was acting that way."
The teacher breathed heavily through his nose, trying to maintain his composure and not choke up.
"He looked down again and was silent. I repeated what I said. You're a good kid, why are you doing this? He looked back up at me with tears in his eyes. I asked him why he was crying, and he said nobody had ever told him he was a good kid in his entire life. I patted him a few more times on his shoulder and told him that I believe in him, and he thanked me. For the last week, he has been an angel. Things don't always turn out that way, but when they do, it's the best feeling in the world."
"You're a good man. Enjoy the almond roca my friend. Thank you for coming in and thank you for all that you do."
"See you soon," he said as he walked out.
I followed him out and waved to him as he drove away.
The rainbow was still there, and the crows were still floating down through it.
I got to thinking about a college professor who did something similar for me when I was twenty years old.
Two weeks before I was expelled from college for excessive substance abuse, my Spanish professor, Blas Hernandez, pulled me aside after class.
"I want to take you out to dinner," he said.
That night he took me to the fanciest restaurant in town and bought me a filet mignon.
By age twenty I'd been binge drinking heavily on weekends for six straight years.
It's hard to believe looking back, but it's true.
I'm a naturally sweet and polite person but the booze had turned me into a hell raiser.
The most insidious part of it all was that the crew I ran with in college liked me that way. It was a kick for them to have a guy like me around.
It was the same thing in high school.
Somehow being a crazy boozer brought me more popularity and attention than being my normal calm and introspective self.
After we'd eaten and made small talk, Blas said what he came to say.
"Adam, I just want you to know one thing about your drinking. You're good enough without it. You hear me? You're good enough without it. Don't ever forget that. You don't need it for people to like you," he said.
It took me a stint in rehab, a long trip to Peru, and my wife falling in love with me after I'd gone sober to become fully convinced that he was right.
What he said has never left me.
The rain began again and crackled like millions of marbles bouncing on a hardwood floor. The rainbow disappeared. The crows continued to scavenge.
I thought about Blas, hoping that he is doing alright.
I am thankful for all the good teachers out there who work their butts off day in and day out, in a mostly thankless job, with the hope that they can make a real impact on just a couple of youngsters per year.
Of course, outside of the classroom there are a lot of people too, of all ages, who need somebody to believe in them.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day! Adam